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9/14/05 8:17 PM
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Edited: 14-Sep-05
Member Since: 06/08/2002
Posts: 4054

The presumption that oddsmaking, bookmaking and wagering practices must be similar for college and pro football because both games use the same shaped ball is as wrong as assuming there's no difference between thoroughbred and harness racing because both sports employ horses.

The devil is in the details.

There are at least six factors that separate college football from its NFL counterpart. For starters, action on college football is much more likely to come from sophisticated bettors or 'wise' guys who believe that they have some insight or kernel of information that gives them the edge.

Bookmakers know not to treat heavy activity on an obscure East Carolina-Wake Forest game as casually as they might deal with wagering interest on a marquee Redskins-Cowboys confrontation. For that reason, bookmakers usually move lines on college games quickly, often at a point at a time. In general, it takes more money to move an NFL line and when it is moved, usually it is by only half-point.

Largely because of a lack of proficiency in the kicking game, key numbers such as 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 13 and 14 are not nearly as sacrosanct in college football as they are in the NFL. The college games just do not fall on those numbers as often as they do in the NFL.

You may never see a three-touchdown favorite in the NFL, but lines of minus 30, minus 40, or even minus 50 are not so uncommon in college ball. College totals are more difficult to gauge too because some coaches try to impress those who have a vote in the polls by running up the score. Others, such as Penn State's Joe Paterno, feel that a third-string player's reward for practicing all week is to get to play in a blowout. These types of uncertainties are why bookmakers shift college 'over/under' numbers more quickly than they move NFL totals.

It's the nature of college football that personnel change every year. This makes early season evaluation more difficult and leads bet-takers to move lines and totals more quickly in September. There is personnel movement in the NFL too, of course, but mostly it involves players of established ability moving from team to team. In college football, you're always dealing with fresh faces.

The NFL publishes a comprehensive list of injured players and their status each week. Sure, there are mistakes and abuses and players who have been listed as "doubtful" have played while those regarded as "probable" have not. But overall, the list is accurate. Conversely, college teams are under no obligation to announce the status of injured or disciplined players. This uncertainty over availability sometimes can create opportunities for bettors. Consequently, bookmakers are wary if too much wagering attention is paid to one team.

When it comes to parlay card numbers, you are much more apt to see a slight gap between those prices printed on cards and those posted on the board in the NFL than in college football. The key element is that bookmakers can more accurately predict the public inclination for an NFL game than they can for a college game.

Thus, popular teams such as Dallas or Green Bay, or "hot" teams such as Carolina or Atlanta, might be listed as a 7 1/2-point favorite on a parlay card but just a 6 1/2 or 7-point choice on the board. Through experience, bookmakers know that "public" teams such as the Cowboys and Packers, as well as "now" teams such as the Panthers and Falcons, will be more aggressively played on parlay cards than they are straight up. 

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